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John Smith

(College Secretary and Clerk to the Governor 1979 - '89)

John Smith talks about his time as College Secretary and Clerk to the Governor from January 1979 until 1989. In particular he shares his memories of preparing for a special visitor.

Watch the Real Player stream of John Smith or read the transcript below...

Interviewer: Does anything stand out in your memory about your time as College Secretary? There’s probably a number of things.

John Smith: "There are many things really - one that I’ll mention is Margaret Thatcher and I remember this story with affection as well as amusement. During the long vacation probably towards the end of July, or early in August, this was in Eric Ash’s time as Rector, Margaret Thatcher suddenly responded to an open invitation to come and visit the Margaret ThatcherCollege. She gave us about 10 days warning and her visit would be in the middle of August, and to put it mildly the college was sort of enjoying its usual summer tranquillity. We put together a programme for her, she said she could spend about an hour and a half and this meant summoning people from beaches, I shouldn’t say that, from all over the world and trying to get back some research students and so on and so forth.

Margaret arrived with Dennis Thatcher quite early one morning and they went through several departments finishing up in Physics and going out onto Consort Road. One of the problems was that of course there were no undergraduates at all and all of the research students available were almost entirely from Asia or Africa or somewhere not close who were still here in the midst of summer. A few disgruntled academics who’d been forced to break short their summer plans and so she made a few comments as she had done before when she came to the college why can’t you teach all our children to do all this?

But at the end I remember Eric Ash saying to her very good of you Prime Minister to spare so much time to come and visit and she said oh it was no trouble at all, "Dennis and I are just on the way to the dentist and it was convenient", which was a great put down."

July 2006

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